Lt. Governor Dan Patrick announced a bipartisan effort on Thursday at the state capital to give Texas police officers extra protection while on patrol by providing them tougher bulletproof vests.
Patrick promised it would be a priority this session after the July 7 ambush on officers in Downtown Dallas. But it's still up to lawmakers to figure out how to pay for it all.
Weighing at least 30 pounds, the bulletproof vest is made to withstand a rifle shot. But it's not issued to all officers on patrol in Dallas.
Sgt. Mike Mata, president of the Dallas Police Association, says heavier armor is used in high-risk operations or SWAT
But after the July 7 ambush, state lawmakers want to see more vests capable of stopping rifle rounds in the hands of at least 50,000 patrol officers across the state.
In Austin, Democratic State Senator Royce West from Dallas joined Republican Lt. Governor to announce the filing of Senate Bill 12. It would create a grant program, giving state dollars to local agencies for vests.
“We hope by doing this, we will save law enforcement officers’ lives and that we will continue to show our support for law enforcement in the state of Texas,” West said.
Lt. Governor Patrick says it could take $25 million to implement but couldn't say yet where the money would come from.
“When you have a tight budget year, you make priorities,” he said. “For me, the number one priority is to protect those that protect us.”
Since last summer, some North Texas departments have already bought more vests. Garland used emergency funding for body armor and ballistic helmets. In Plano, the city council approved similar equipment for all officers.
But still, other departments say the standard vests are all they can afford.
Even in Dallas, Sgt. Mata says he hopes that if Senate Bill 12 passes, it gives agencies the freedom to buy what's best for them.
“I hope these funds are made available to us to where we can go out and find this new technology and not create a new carry vest,” Mata said. “Or maybe just replace the panels that are already in the vests that we wear at the time that will stop the larger round.”
As it’s written, Senate Bill 12 doesn't dictate a make or model of vests. So it may be possible for departments to pick what they want. Departments would have to apply for a grant through the criminal justice division.